Higher Education Quick Takes

Quick Takes

June 15, 2015

Leading universities regularly intervene when men's basketball or football players are suspected of or charged with breaking laws, an investigation by ESPN has found. The investigation involved examining the athletes of 10 universities to see the percentage of them who were eventually charged with crimes. The network found that athletes are much less likely than similarly aged men in the localities where the universities are located to end up with any charges at all. The most fortunate athletes, in terms of being identified as suspects but never facing charges, were those of Florida State University and the University of Florida.

In exploring these patterns, the network wrote about how the athletics departments contact lawyers on behalf of athletes, and how the assertive defenses of skilled local lawyers discourage local authorities from taking action against athletes.

June 15, 2015

With retractions of scholarly papers attracting much attention these days, a study that will be released Wednesday will challenge conventional wisdom on the factors that encourage work that must be retracted. The paper will appear in PLOS ONE and features an analysis of retractions to look for trends. A summary of the paper is available now at Retraction Watch. "The hypothesis that males might be prone to scientific misconduct was not supported, and the widespread belief that pressures to publish are a major driver of misconduct was largely contradicted: high-impact and productive researchers, and those working in countries in which pressures to publish are believed to be higher, are less likely to produce retracted papers, and more likely to correct them. Efforts to reduce and prevent misconduct, therefore, might be most effective if focused on promoting research integrity policies, improving mentoring and training, and encouraging transparent communication amongst researchers," says the summary.

It adds: "Some factors were associated with a higher rate of misconduct, of course -- a lack of research integrity policy, and cash rewards for individual publication performance, for instance. Scientists just starting their careers, and those in environments where 'mutual criticism is hampered,' were also more likely to commit misconduct."

June 15, 2015

The trailer has arrived for a film, being released nationally next month, about the Stanford Prison Experiment (which is the name of the film as well), a controversial experiment at Stanford University in 1971 in which students were assigned to play the roles of prisoners and prison guards. The study had to be halted as the students playing the role of guards became sadistic. While many criticized the experiment, it remains much studied in psychology courses, and is cited when events such as the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib raise issues about how people change in certain situations.

Here is the trailer:



For those who want to review the scholarship about the experiment, here is a website about the experiment by Philip Zimbardo, professor emeritus of psychology at Stanford and leader of the study.

And for fans of film about controversial social science experiments about how good people can be led to do bad things, watch for Experimenter as well, about the Stanley Milgram experiments in which research subjects were led to believe they were administering shocks on others. The film is currently on the festival circuit and will be released generally later this year.

June 15, 2015

A student at California's Crafton Hills College and her parents are urging the institution to ban the teaching of several graphic novels, Redlands Daily Facts reported. The student says that the novels, including Fun Home, The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House and Persepolis are violent, pornographic or both. (The novels have all been widely praised by critics, winning awards.) Ryan Bartlett, associate professor of English, said that this is the third time he has taught a course on graphic novels, and the first time there has been a complaint.

“I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition,” Bartlett said in an email to the Daily Facts. “As Faulkner states, ‘The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.’ The same may be said about reading literature. The characters in the chosen graphic novels are all struggling with issues of morality, self discovery, heart break, etc. The course in question has also been supported by the faculty, administration and approved by the board.”

June 15, 2015

The College Board at some point last week changed its explanation of why it was not scoring two sections of the SAT given on June 6, but did so without indicating a change had been made, and while keeping a time stamp on the page that was inaccurate, The Washington Post reported. The change made more clear that the College Board was not scoring two sections on the SAT, something about which there has been some confusion. A spokesman said he could not say why the posting was made in a way that hid the date it was made.

The news comes amid growing criticism from students who took the SAT on June 6, many of whom doubt the College Board's explanation that it can give them full scores without two sections on the test. Some students have organized a petition demanding a free retest, and some reports on social media indicate that some students who have called the College Board have been told they can get a free retest. The College Board spokesman declined to comment on those reports.

Two of the students who organized the petition emailed Inside Higher Ed to say that they had heard (but not confirmed) the reports about some test takers being offered a free retest. But they said this was not a good solution, done privately. "If some students are actually getting retests just by calling, we would hope that the College Board would inform everyone that a free retest is an option for them," said Courtney Noll and Sarah Choudhury.

June 15, 2015

A judge on Friday ordered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to release emails regarding the revoked tenure appointment of Steven Salaita. The American Indian studies scholar found himself without a job last year after Chancellor Phyllis Wise objected to the tone of his Twitter comments about Israel. Salaita has maintained that donors illegally influenced Wise’s decision, based on the previous release of some emails between Wise and unnamed donors. Salaita wants the full, unredacted email record regarding his nonappointment, but the university has maintained that such a request is unduly burdensome.

Robin Kaler, university spokesperson, said that the institution maintains the request is too large, and that it will “do its best” over the coming weeks to produce the some 9,600 documents regarding Salaita’s case. Kaler said the university tried to negotiate his request to a more manageable size, with little success. Maria LaHood, Salaita’s lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights, said the university was trying to avoid transparency, but that the court agreed releasing the emails was in the public interest. “We look forward to seeing what the university was so eager to hide,” she said. Salaita has another ongoing lawsuit against university leaders and the John Doe donors for breach of contract and tortious interference, among other claims.

June 15, 2015

LaMont Glenn Jackson, who just finished a term as student trustee on the board of the Los Angeles Community College District, has been charged with attempted extortion, The Los Angles Times reported. Jackson is charged with trying to force a student government leader to resign by threatening to release a "revealing" photograph of her if she did not quit her position. Jackson's lawyer said he has done nothing wrong and would be cleared of wrongdoing.

June 15, 2015

The University of Cambridge, in Britain, has received £2.5 million ($3.9 million) from the Lego Foundation to endow the Lego Professorship of Play in Education, Development and Learning, BBC reported. Additional funding is being provided for a research center. A university spokesman said that the Lego professorship would be "open to all those whose work falls within the general field of the title of the office."

June 15, 2015

In today's Academic Minute, Robert Pallitto, a political scientist at Seton Hall University, helps us understand and celebrate the document’s legacy. Learn more about the Academic Minute here.

June 12, 2015

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will not lose accreditation over the academic fraud that occurred there, but it will face one year of probation, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges announced Thursday. In October, the university released a detailed report about widespread and long-lasting academic fraud at the university. For 20 years, some employees at the university knowingly steered about 1,500 athletes toward no-show courses that never met and were not taught by any faculty members, and in which the only work required was a single research paper that received a high grade no matter the content.

In January, UNC submitted a 200-page report to the accrediting body detailing the steps it has taken since the scandal came to light. The university will have to submit a similar update after the probationary period.

"The commission’s decision is the next step -- an expected consequence -- in Carolina’s tireless efforts to ensure integrity in everything we do and that the past irregularities are not allowed to recur," Carol Folt, UNC's chancellor, said in a statement.


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